Mar 21, 2016 | By Alec

Bentley is synonymous with British luxury and over the past century the company has been building a timeless reputation for classy, high quality cars for the elite. However, they are also a company that looks towards the future and has been seeking new design avenues that might appeal to affluent young buyers. For that purpose, they have just previewed what they believe their autonomous limousines will look like in the year 2036 – a leather-free interior packed with 3D printed accessories that feels like lounge cabin, complete with a holographic butler.

Bentley, of course, is a truly intriguing car manufacturer. Founded way back in 1919, they have managed to keep their timeless style without ignoring technological innovations. This even touches their design department, where the company appointed German Volkswagen veteran Stefan Sielaff as design chief in July 2015. “It’s not about making change for the sake of it, but about finding ways to interpret what our customers want. We have a hugely international design team here—more than 20 nationalities—and we are an international brand, and we must reflect those tastes and aspirations in our products,” he previously said of his new challenge. Tasked with finding a classy, appealing rebranding for Bentley, he has been a firm believer in 3D printing, and last month argued that it would be one of the key technologies behind the future of Bentley.

True to his word, Sielaff’s view of luxury limousines in the age of autonomous driving are packed with 3D printed accessories. But even without 3D printing, the design is breathtaking. Feeling like a luxury lounge cabin, the design features two sofa-like seats facing each other, with OLED infotainment screens mounted to the side panels. But as Sielaff explains to reporters, there are fundamental differences with previous designs as well. “You think Bentley and you think of leather, wood and polished alloy. On the Speed 6 concept we pushed that, with copper. Now we are pushing that further,” he argues.

Perhaps the most shocking change is the move from leather towards synthetic protein leather, tweed and canvas. “ We’re seeing a move towards a vegan, more sustainable lifestyle. For these buyers an interior of cowhides is unacceptable, so we’re looking at alternatives,” he explains. “And whatever we use it’ll be Bentley in how we treat it; the fine stitching, the smell, that craftsmanship.” What’s more, stone veneer (slate and quartzite) will also be incorporated into the design for a unique look, explains interior designer Romulus Rost. “Like timber there’s a unique grain and texture to each piece, and it’s so thin that when you back-light it the stone becomes semi-translucent and looks amazing.”

But we are obviously most interested in manufacturing, and Sielaff has revealed that he believes 3D printing will be extensively used in the near future, especially for accessories. The Speed 6 already featured various 3D printed parts, such as door hinges featuring an abstract Union Jack, and that trend will take flight. “3D printing is fascinating for use because it overcomes problems of production for us. You can create detailed, complex components that in the past we would not be able to make via milling or casting. This is only possible using 3D printing,” he explains.

In part, this will be the case for practical components, such as the hollowed out knurled items like indicator stalks that can’t be milled or cast, according to Sielaff. But the warm, Britishness of Bentley will also benefit from the technology, he adds. “The detailing on the interior of the grille can also be 3D printed and that is also something that in the future will give each car in our family personality. We can play with the interior of the grille to make it more sporty or more elegant. These are things that are influencing our future design language from a technical perspective,” Sielaff argues.

But they will not go overboard with 3D printing, as the car’s overall geometry will still rely on traditional manufacturing. “Certain rules, the rules of prestige proportions, will remain, as will deep, powerful bodies, high belt-lines and the combination of a short front and long rear overhang,’ explains Sielaff. “You must be able to feel the human touch in the sexiness of these surfaces – we design in data but the shape is always milled out in a clay model and finished by hand. That will remain the case.” But we can expect a lot more carbon fiber.

Bentley is thus effectively trying to seek a unique balance between their timeless class and the latest technologies – something reflected not just in 3D printing, but in the OLED screens and the holographic butler as well. “At Bentley we have had autonomous cars for a long, long time; the chauffeur!’ jokes board member Rolf Frech. “But driving a Bentley gives you emotions and we cannot lose this. We are investigating, to be prepared if the customer demand is there.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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